Zero-G: Sounds of the 70’s

Sounds of the SeventiesThe 70’s were a rich time for pop music. Heavy metal, disco, punk rock, and electronica all emerged in the decade. It was a time of extreme variety, when Boston had a hit with Long Time, the Cars with Let the Good Times Roll, King Harvest with Dancing in the Moonlight, Chic hit it with Le Freak, Hot Butter with Popcorn, Donna Summer with I Feel Love, and John Lennon’s Imagine.

Capturing the variety of this rich musical stew in a sample library is nearly impossible, but Zero-G does an admirable job with its new Virtual Sound Module, Sounds of the 70’s.

It’s a sample-based virtual instrument based on a Native Instruments Audio Engine, and is compatible with just about everything (VST 2.0, DXi, ASIO, AU, RTAS, Mac & PC). It provides a huge selection of rock, disco, prog-rock, funk and soul beats, grooves and sounds that faithfully capture the seventies sound. Sounds of the Seventies lets you incorporate the flavor of Seventies songs into your music, while avoiding the legal morass of sampling classic tracks.

Background

The musical samples created for Sounds of the 70’s were written and produced by Mike Wilkie and Matthew Corbett for Zero-G. Wilkie and Corbett went to extremes to get capture the feel of classic Seventies music.

“To faithfully recreate the sounds of the seventies we equipped ourselves with two pairs of loon pants (purple and mauve), brown glitter encrusted platform boots with 5 inch heels, cheese cloth shirts and genuine Afghans. We also had an Afro hairdo, and then, and only then, did we feel ready to proceed on our sonic journey!”

The producers relied on period gear to ensure authentic sounds. “We already had original guitars and basses from the 70’s and before, and soon managed to borrow a Fender Rhodes and a Wurlitzer EP as well as a Hammond with a massive Leslie cabinet with something like a propeller in it.”

“Many synths like our ancient Crumar, which we used a lot, were amped instead of feeding direct and guitars were awash with spidery tones and liberal use of an old Cry Baby. We used a Gibson Les Paul standard (circa 1977) for almost all of the guitars and, surprisingly, most of the bass was undertaken on an old Aria Pro, after rejecting more sumptuous instruments, it just seemed to evoke the era more precisely, we played it through an old Selmer bass amp.”

Once they had sampled the grooves they were looking for, they went the extra mile and put them to vinyl. “We decided the only way to retain the funk was to have everything mastered onto vinyl through 70s valve compressors and EQs. We found a mastering suite deep in South London that ticked all the boxes and got everything transferred to a large stack of laquers, and then back into digital. It sounds like the seventies!”

Installation

We tested Sounds of the 70’s on Mac OS X, using a 1.25 Ghz G4 machine. We encountered no stability problems or other quirks. Installation is very straightforward. Note that a DVD drive is required, because of the size of the library.

Registration of the Native Instruments engine is required as part of the installation process. It may strike some users as strange to have to register to NI for a Zero-G product. A separate program is installed to your hard drive which handles registration. It takes you to an web page, where you exchange your personal information for an authorization code. The registration process, and the proprietary format that the samples are stored in, are unfortunately becoming necessary to avoid unlicensed duplication of sample libraries.

The Technology

Sounds of the 70’s follows trend of recent Zero-G releases, putting large sample libraries into a customized Native Instruments sampler interface. The size of the library, and the proprietary file formats serve to discourage illegal distribution of the samples.

The Intakt sample engine also bring a tremendous amount of power to the end user. Sound of the 70’s retains the rich array of tools from the full version of Intakt, which lets you massively mangle the provided samples. Users that already have the full Intakt or Kontakt samplers can also load the patches and sampes from the Sounds of the 70’s DVD, offering additional flexibility.

Sounds of the Seventies

The Intakt engine is very powerful, and has an excellent set of features for sample-mangling:

  • A great-sounding multimode filter
  • Flexible modulation capabilities, including dual LFO’s, AHDSR envelope and envelope follower
  • Effects, including delay, distortion, and low-fi effects
  • Beat Machine mode beat-slices percussion loops so you can use one slice within a loop
  • Time machine mode time-stretches loops to automatically fit samples to various tempos
  • Standard sampler mode lets you play samples up and down the scale

It’s also compatible with just any sequencer, with VST 2.0, DXi, ASIO, Audio Units, Core Audio, RTAS, Mac & PC support. This means that, as long as you’ve got a fairly recent machine, Sounds should work with it.

The Sound Library

All this technology would be irrelevant without great samples. Zero-G provides 1.4 gigs of original samples. The samples faithfully capture the grooves and feel of seventies tracks.

The names of the construction kit familes give a hint of their contents:

  • 090-Humble Cake
  • 090-Smooth Ride
  • 095-Freeway Driftin
  • 095-Lets Be Friends
  • 095-On The Raydio
  • 095-The Tranquil Heaven
  • 100-East Street
  • 100-Mean & Dirty
  • 100-Weasley Brothers
  • 109-Dukes Of Starski
  • 110-Beat Shave
  • 110-Doctor Groovenstein
  • 110-Groover Funkington
  • 110-Lite Up The Bite
  • 110-Power Of Tower
  • 110-Psalm Of The Star Voyager
  • 110-Sky Bird Flight
  • 110-Steely Pan
  • 110-Taste Of Marmalade
  • 110-Too Much Party
  • 115-Blackbyrd
  • 115-Bold & Delicious
  • 115-Children Of The Sun
  • 115-Diggin The Scene
  • 115-Exeptional Green Band
  • 115-Fat Slapper
  • 115-Favourite Dancer
  • 115-Funky Strut
  • 115-Getcha Jaxx On
  • 115-Herbs With Albert
  • 115-Jazz Cellar
  • 115-Not Cricket
  • 115-Planet Groove
  • 115-Super Wasp
  • 115-The James Gang
  • 116-Calypso Carnival
  • 120-Dingers
  • 120-Fusion Illusion
  • 120-Le Flic
  • 120-Silver Connection
  • 120-Winter Dinner
  • 130-Flying Disco Melons
  • 165-Spit On The Floor

Somebody had a lot of fun coming up with names! The funny names are helpful, though, because you know something like Power of Tower is going to have some great horn work, Le Flic will have some snaky disco basslines and Dukes of Starski will capture that 70’s cop-show vibe.

The quality of the samples is excellent. Many of the construction kits, like Le Flic brought images of specific 70’s bands immediately to mind. Others seem to capture the spirit of various 70’s styles. The sample collection is advertised as Funk & Disco Essentials, but it covers many other of the genres of the 70’s. The samples cover a lot of territory, and should be great for dance, soundtrack work, hip-hop, and any other place where a little retro sound is wanted.

The audio quality is uniformly good. The producers captured a period sound, but without using gimmicks like hiss or pops. The samples sound like they could have been taken from old master tapes. Users that want more of a vinyl sound can always run the loops through a vinyl plug-in.

Because the samples are already looped and sliced as needed, it’s very easy to get started. Open Sounds of the 70’s as a standalone instrument or within a sequencer. Pick a Construction Kit, and then use a MIDI keyboard to audition the loops. Each construction kit features a set of compatible loops, a pre-mixed loop and some one-shot samples. Each loop or sample is assigned to a note on the keyboard, so you can check out mix combinations by simply playing various keys.

In addition to the construction kits, Zero-G ices the cake with B3 organ, bass, drum, Rhodes, synth, guitar, trumpet and Wurlitzer samples and riffs.

Summary

Zero-G successfully recreates the Sounds of the 70’s with their latest sample library. The library is massive, with 1.4 gigs of source material, and gives you plenty of options for customizing the samples, courtesy of Native Instrument’s Intakt engine.

Most importantly, the samples capture both the feel and sound of classic 70’s tracks. The library should provide inspiration for many types of music. The library gives you that authentic 70’s sound, without the costs or legal hassles of sampling old vinyl.

The Sounds of the 70’s collection is perfect for musicians working in dance and hip-hop genres, but should also be useful for anyone that wants to inject a bit of 70’s groove into their tracks.

Pros

  • Great samples and construction kits capture the feel of classic tracks
  • Zero-G has done all the work of looping and beat slicing the samples
  • Intakt is flexible and powerful
  • Flexible tools for customizing the samples

Cons

  • Samples only available through virtual instrument – no raw samples
  • Native Instruments registration is intrusive

Recommended Retail Price

  • $299.95 US Dollars (259 Euros / 169.00 pounds sterling)

Minimum Requirements

  • Windows XP, Pentium III/ Athlon 400 MHz, 256 MB RAM
  • Mac OS 10.2.6 or higher, G3 500 MHz, 256 MB RAM

Recommended System

  • Windows XP, Pentium III/ Athlon 700 MHz, 512 MB
  • Mac OS 10.2.6 or higher, G4 733, 512 MB

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